What constitutes voter fraud in Oregon? It may surprise you

It's hard to turn on the news these days and not see discussion of voter fraud or election hacking. However, Oregon Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins notes that instances of an individual actually casting a fraudulent ballot are very rare.

Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson says that ever since the state switched to having solely mail-in ballots in 2000, there have only been 15 cases.

Oregon's election laws detail what is and isn't legal when it comes to voting and other election activities. Obviously, it's illegal to vote more than once. Also, in Oregon primary elections, you can only vote for a candidate in your own party. However, many people break other laws without even realizing it.

A common way that people unknowingly break the law involves signing the ballot envelope for someone else -- often a family member. County clerks' employees match the signatures on those ballots with those they have on file. When a signature on an envelope doesn't match the one already provided by the voter, it is referred to the Oregon Department of Justice, which determines what action to take.

In these cases, according to Atkins, "At the very least, people can expect to receive a stern letter saying their case is being investigated and that their vote won't count," Generally, only "the most egregious cases" are prosecuted.

President Trump has been asserting, despite his win, that voter fraud was widespread throughout the 2016 election. He's tasked a commission to investigate that. The head of the commission asked all states to provide detailed voter information, including date of birth, address and partial Social Security numbers.

Richardson was one of the secretaries of state who refused. He replied to the request, saying in part, "We have very little evidence of voter fraud or registration fraud in Oregon." He also pointed out that it was illegal to disclose Social Security numbers. A number of lawmakers, including Oregon's U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, joined Richardson in expressing concern for the violation of security and privacy that dissemination of such information would involve.

While, as noted, most election law violations are unintentional and don't result in charges, if you find yourself facing such charges, it's essential to seek legal guidance from an Oregon criminal defense attorney experienced in this area.

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